‘You do know that your car is freezing, correct?’
My fingers involuntarily started to strangle the steering wheel and I forced myself to take a breath before I accidentally drove us off the road.
‘Yes, Judith,’ I said through gritted teeth.
‘Mrs. Blake, if you would,’ she said, nose upturned. ‘You may be marrying my son, but I hardly see why our relationship should be so informal.’
The leather of the steering wheel squeaked for mercy.
‘So?’ she said.
‘Your car. Why am I so cold?’
The icy grip of death, hopefully.
‘My air conditioning is broken,’ I said instead.
‘And you haven’t had it fixed? What’s the problem? Can’t find a cheap mechanic near Morayfield? Tell me,’ she frowned. ‘Have you always been this lazy, or is it just since you met my son?’
I calmly looked up at the rear-view mirror, checking there was nobody behind me, then slammed my foot down on the brakes.
Judith – Mrs. Blake – let out a satisfying squeal as she rocketed forward in her seat.
‘Are you mad?’ she screamed at me, once she’d recovered. ‘I could have been killed!’
‘Listen, Judy,’ I smiled coolly. ‘My aircon has been broken for a few days now because I’ve been too busy ferrying you around town to your appointments to find a mechanic near me that can do a car air conditioning service. I’m not lazy – I’m an indentured servant!’
I twisted back to face the road and took my foot off the brake, slowly bringing the car back up to speed. Judith still looked shocked – though from the braking or my speech I wasn’t sure.
We drove in silence for a few minutes, and I briefly wondered if I’d given the old woman a heart attack.
‘I, uh…’ she finally said, coughing into her handkerchief to clear her throat. ‘I may know somebody. For your air conditioning. A reasonable man.’
‘Thank you,’ I said, stiffly. ‘I would appreciate that, Mrs. Blake.’
A beat passed, until she let out a huge sigh, collapsing back into her seat.
‘Oh, just call me Judith.’